Bovine digital dermatitis and severe virulent ovine foot rot: a common spirochaetal pathogenesis

Vet J. 2005 Mar;169(2):232-41. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2004.01.029.


A potential pathological role for spirochaetes in bovine digital dermatitis (bovine DD) and severe virulent ovine foot rot (SVOFR) has been considered and a treponeme isolate obtained from each disease in the UK. In this work, we have investigated the hypothesis that the two diseases may have a shared (common) spirochaetal aetiology. Experiments were designed to identify serological similarities and differences between the two spirochaetes; an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was developed to detect anti-treponeme antibodies in the sera of cows and sheep against the two-treponeme isolates. Sera were further tested for antigen reactivity by Western blotting. Cattle and sheep with bovine DD and SVOFR, respectively, had increased seropositivity rates to both treponeme isolates, with different patterns of reactivity between farms. In some cattle herds, significant correlations were shown between antibodies to bovine DD treponemes and SVOFR treponemes (P<0.001). In other herds, there was no apparent cross reaction, suggesting the presence of more than one treponeme in bovine DD on some farms. There was no significant correlation between the two treponeme isolates when ELISA-tested against 58 sheep sera from SVOFR cases (P>0.05); sheep showed strong evidence of reactivity to one or the other treponeme antigens, but never to both. Western blotting against both treponeme antigens showed that they frequently displayed different antigen epitopes, although some minor bands were common to both organisms. The data suggest that there are a number of spirochaetes in UK farms, which could be involved in the pathogenesis of either bovine DD or SVOFR.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Blotting, Western / veterinary
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / blood
  • Cattle Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cattle Diseases / microbiology
  • Dairying
  • England / epidemiology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / veterinary
  • Female
  • Foot Dermatoses / epidemiology
  • Foot Dermatoses / veterinary*
  • Foot Rot / blood
  • Foot Rot / epidemiology*
  • Foot Rot / microbiology
  • Sheep
  • Sheep Diseases / blood
  • Sheep Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Sheep Diseases / microbiology
  • Spirochaetales Infections / epidemiology
  • Spirochaetales Infections / veterinary*
  • Treponema / genetics
  • Treponema / immunology
  • Treponema / isolation & purification
  • Wales / epidemiology


  • Antibodies, Bacterial